The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 3rd

Beyond Jesse: Where Do We Go From Here?

Without our right-wing leader, how will we maintain our post-Civil War mentality? Folks, your reputation as an N.C. voter is at stake. Who will preserve our 30-year voting tradition as racist, sexist, uneducated nationalists who tote guns alongside Bibles?

However, we mustn't worry about what the nation thinks of us at times like these. Instead we should celebrate Jesse's fine accomplishments with genuine farcical accolades and kudos.

Sen. Helms will be deeply missed here in Chapel Hill. After all, it was he who once praised UNC students with his overtly Southern charm.

When officials searched for the state zoological site, Helms suggested putting a fence around Chapel Hill and charging admission.

That fence would have been a nice addition to our stone walls. Next time you refer to a fellow Tar Heel as a dog, just remember we could've put them on exhibit, even made a little cash.

As a lovely reminder of Chapel Hill's longstanding relationship with Helms, check out Fodor's description of UNC and the town -- we're immortalized as a bunch of animals. Damn shame we lost that zoo to Asheboro.

For some, the name Jesse Helms brings one word to mind -- sex. Helms has a strong, hard record when it comes to sex.

In 1996 Helms raised hell over International Planned Parenthood Foundation's efforts to teach Haitians about population control (read: condoms). Think he halted the program because of his staunch pro-life views? No, not this time. In a letter to then Secretary of State Madeline Albright, he demanded an end to funding "any group whose programs include producing material intended to be used in a voodoo ceremony."

That's right, voodoo.

See, Planned Parenthood spread its safe sex message at voodoo ceremonies through song-prayers about STDs. Helms called it "witchcraft." Well, all the witches down in Haiti wanted to give a shout out to Sen. Helms: Thanks for syphilis, herpes, and a few illegitimate witches roaming around hexing people.

How else does Helms naturally evoke thoughts of sex? Believe me, it's not his almost 80-year-old hoary looks, topped off with thick bifocals -- but his take on AIDS. Actually, his non-take on AIDS.

"We've got to have some common sense about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaging in unnatural acts," Jesse told the New York Times in 1995. Right, because in Helms' world, AIDS is just a "gay thing." Too bad in the real world, drug users and heterosexuals make up the majority of people living with AIDS. Helms' so-called `common sense' led to limited sex education, but we all know a few condoms in high school can help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Sen. Helms is retiring from a Capitol Hill era riddled with scandal, rule-breaking and law-bending. But he'll leave his own legacy behind. Whistling "Dixie" down the Senate halls makes him seem like a Southern gentleman compared to his past activities.

In 1985, a Helms official attempted to acquire The Pioneer Fund, a controversial research foundation studying "racial betterment." Scientists at the Pioneer Fund were out to prove that blacks were genetically inferior to whites.

More recently, Helms refused to integrate the all-white Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Several black judges from North Carolina were nominated to the court, but none received hearings. So Helms will leave it the way he found it -- lily white.

Some argue Helms faded in recent years, but I have to hand it to him -- he's still got it. The old man managed to piss off George W. by holding up some nominations in order to gain favorable trade regulations for North Carolina textiles. Apparently he could annoy Republicans and Democrats alike.

With Helms' pending homecoming, he should kick back and do what all retirees do -- visit the zoo. The animals will be waiting.

Rachel Hockfield is a junior political science major from Charlotte. Nominate her for the first underage Senator at rachel@email.unc.edu.

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